Is Christianity the Right Religion? Is Hell Real?

Is Christianity the Right Religion? Is Hell Real? August 20, 2010

Lately I seem to have become Answer Guy. Which is cool, of course. More than cool; it’s an honor that people write me with the stuff they do. I appreciate those of you who follow my blog sort of tracking me while I answer this stuff (and of course via the comments helping out with your own input).

When I fired up my computer this morning, I found waiting for me the email below. I think you’ll agree it’s hardly one I could ignore.

Hi John,

I am a 15-year-old male.

I am having terrible worries about whether Christianity is the “right” religion—what if it isn’t? What if the Jews are right, or the Muslims, the Buddhists, or whatever? Will the “real” god be angry with those who choose a “wrong” religion?

Also, do you believe there is a hell? I have seen so much stuff on the Internet about hell, that I am having nightmares and am suffering a lot of anxiety, worrying about what will happen after death.

My family tells me there is no hell, and they don’t believe there is even a god. But I am so worried, what if they are wrong? They think the Bible is something that was made-up by some people long ago, and that all religions are just trying to scare us into joining them.

Please help me make sense of it all, I am really going crazy with worry.


Dear Young Man:

First of all, there’s no need to worry about this stuff. You’re fifteen. Think of how long ago it seems since you were twelve. That distance you feel when you think of that, times about twenty, is how long you have to figure this stuff out. So you can relax. You’ve got all the time in the world to answer these questions. And you will. People who really want answers to these kinds of questions always get them.

Also, these are not small or inconsequential questions you’re asking. They’re part and parcel of The Big Human Questions, the core, driving questions that mystics, artists, philosophers, theologians, and in one way or another every single other person who’s ever walked the earth have been puzzling over since time began. It’s a marvelous thing that you even care about the answer to these questions; most kids your age are worried about their hair, or getting new wheels for their skateboard, or whatever. You’ve really sunk your teeth into some meat here. It’s impressive that you’re about this business. It bodes well for your future.

Also, I hope your parents were just giving you the short version of their fuller understanding of religion. I’m sure they were; I’m sure they understand that religion is more than just a world-wide, culturally diverse, ongoing conspiracy perpetuated throughout history by some cynical, manipulative cabal whose only real interest is in having people “join” them. Surely they grasp that religion is a genuine response to God, and that for people God has always been a deeply compelling draw. They personally may not feel that draw, but I hope they don’t think that everyone who does is basically a simpleton being duped by super-savvy marketers. The same thing that’s pressing on you to understand and know God is the same internal thing that’s always pressed on people who have felt the presence of God in their mind and soul—who are, so to speak (and to use a phrase I like) naturally religious. I’m sure (and for your sake really hope) that your parents aren’t so shallow that they’re incapable of at least acknowledging how for millions upon millions of people the quest for spiritual fulfillment is real and valid—that they wouldn’t simply dismiss those people’s spiritual needs as frivolous, or evidence that they’re soft-headed, or whatever. Because that wouldn’t be fair of them.

Maybe try talking to them about this again? I’m sure they’ll at least acknowledge that what you’re going through is important to you, that they’ll be sympathetic to the needs that have set your feet upon the journey you’re on.

As to your question of whether or not Christianity is the “right” religion.

Listen: wondering if any one religion is the “right” religion is an absolute, 100% waste of your time. One religion being right necessarily means everyone who doesn’t follow it is wrong. And from that seed of judgment great wars grow. Don’t waste your time worrying about what religion is “right.” Worry about the only thing you really care about, which is what religion is right for you. That’s all that matters: which religion answers your questions; which addresses your concerns; which brings you a God that matches up with the one you already feel resonating true in your heart. Keep your concerns there; what anyone else is doing, or why, should be none of your concern.

Now, between you and me, I’m happy to tell you that I personally (and as I think you know) vote in the biggest possible way for Christianity. I love it. I have no interest in all the crap you see everywhere associated with it—the screaming pastors, the haters, the gamers, the liars, the opportunists, the clowns, the charlatans, the pious poseurs, the big-haired brayers, the macho haranguers, the hipster charmers, the smug demigods, the endless freakin’ “Christian” drones who wouldn’t know God from a bullhorn. But who cares about those guys? Mean-spirited, narrow minded, psychologically tweaked nitwits are everywhere. At its core, Christianity is (again: to me) the most beautiful, perfectly sublime religion in the world. So I hear right past all the crazy dinkwad Christians, into the heart of God as revealed through the story of Christ. I don’t let anything override, or tune me out of that broadcast signal.

I don’t know if you’re a Christian or not. If you are, then that’s a beautiful thing between you and God, and no one else has any right or place interfering with that relationship. You just concentrate on that relationship, and relax. You’ll be fine. God won’t let you drown, or leave you mired in doubt. Just keep calling on him, and he’ll answer.

If you’re not a Christian, give it a try! It is one of the biggie religions, after all. Explore it. Give in to it for a while, see how it feels in your life. It won’t kill you to assume Christianity is the right religion for you—that the story of God manifesting as the figure known to history as Jesus Christ is real, that it really happened. No harm can come to you from trying that truth on for awhile. If Christianity is wrong or bogus, it’ll feel wrong or bogus, and you can move on. But be with it for a while. Meditate on it. Pray with it. Open yourself up to it. See how it feels. Trust it. Nothing bad will happen to you if for awhile you open your mind to the power of the Christian way.

As to the question of whether or not God will be “angry” with you if you choose the wrong religion. What you’re asking here about—what you do ask about—is whether or not hell is real. You wouldn’t care if God being angry with you meant he was going to give you a stern lecture, or the Ultimate Wedgie, or send you to your room without any manna. You want to know whether or not it might mean you’re going to have to spend eternity having the living flesh seared off your bones. And small wonder you do! Two nights ago while cooking dinner I barely burned my finger, and I’m still so traumatized by it I can barely get off the couch.

So here’s the deal. The question of whether or not hell is real is just like the question of whether or not Christianity is the “right” religion: it’s completely irrelevant. I know it doesn’t feel like it is, but it is. It’s an irrelevant question because it’s the wrong question. It’s asking about the end before addressing the means. It’s like a starving man stumbling into a restaurant, flopping down at a table, and crying out, “What’s for dessert?” It doesn’t make sense. That would never happen, because the only thing that person will care about is food.

I have a saying (that I made up, so it’s not an Official, Oldye Timey saying or anything), which is this: Anyone who spends too much time worrying about the afterlife isn’t spending enough time worrying about this life.

I have no idea if hell is real. Neither does anyone else (no matter how many books they might write, or how loudly they pound on their pulpits). Millions of Christians believe hell is real; millions of Christians believe it’s not. As for me, I don’t care if it’s real. I hate speculating about stuff that I know has no knowable answer. Talk about a waste. Especially since what I do know is more than enough to keep me overwhelmingly occupied.

What I do know is that I want to be good. I want to be good, helpful, honorable, charitable, generous, compassionate, loving, kind, forgiving, thoughtful, diligent, patient, cheerful, hopeful, and the best husband any woman ever had. Okay? So I’ve got my plate full. I’m busy, twenty-four hours a day, trying to do right with what’s right in front of me. Why in the world would I spend one moment of my life worrying about an abstract that might or might not happen to me after I die, when I know I’ve got tons of concrete stuff right in front of me that I know needs properly tending to?

Don’t worry about hell. Worry about your life. Worry about doing your best to be someone who doesn’t have to worry about whether or not hell is real.

You might also read my “God Can Love Me; God Can Send Me To Hell. But He Can’t Do Both.”

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Is it just me or does it seem that many people ask "Is there a hell?" because they want to stay out of it instead of "Is there a heaven?" because they want to go there (or "Is there a God?" because they want to know him). It's like when my kids were little and used to ask "How many peas do I hafta eat?" They haven't embraced the goodness of peas so they try for the bare minimum of what they have to do to get what they need.

    I like how you've addressed this by saying it's important to focus on what we want to be (good, loving, compassionate etc.) instead of not being bad. It's much like the question posed by CS Lewis in his essay, "Weight of Glory": "If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive."

  • Robert

    Firstly, I would suggest to this guy to really dive into some Apologetics schooling. has some great programs and resources.

    The issue of hell is always an interesting one in Western Christianity. I'm reminded of a time growing up in church when one of the Pastor's kids was giving his testimony, and how he was describing his fear of hell and how he didn't want to go there, so he accepted Jesus. And that wasn't his entire testimony, but I remember being young and being slightly disturbed that this fear of something ultimately unknown was at least one major component driving his belief.

    I've struggled with the idea of Hell for a long time now – I have relatives I've never met, who died before I was born who weren't necessarily Christians… Were they in hell? It took a looooong time before I changed my thinking on the subject. I'll try now to expand on what I mean:

    Essentially, the dualism we have in Western Christianity – this idea of an afterlife as an either/or state – that when you die you are either in Heaven or you or in Hell – is really a leftover of the Roman state religion; of styx and the underworld, and Mount Olympus and the like. Furthermore, when Jesus talks about Heaven, it's always in the context of a "Kingdom of Heaven." It's important to understand what that means because there's this beautiful metaphorical narrative that spans the entire bible from beginning to the end speaking to Kingdoms.

    As we know from books like Isiah, it's said that Satan is the Prince of this World, i.e., the Earth. The Earth is his kingdom. Or at least it was, until Jesus died and began to roll out his own order; the Kingdom of Heaven to replace Satan's Kingdom. It then becomes Christians' good work to keep rolling out that Kingdom of heaven, rolling back the Kingdom of darkness.

    Remember the beginning in Genesis? Man lived with God in the garden. This was the Kingdom of Heaven. Then he sinned, got thrown out, and remember the first thing Cain did after he killed his brother? He goes off to build a city, a kingdom.

    The God salvages a remnant out of that, his small kingdom, and he carries that kingdom through the Old testament narrative – and it's constantly in competition with the surrounding kingdoms that did not belong to God. Then Jesus comes and says, look, my kingdom isn't a physical kingdom but a spiritual one that will be made manifest one day, so get on board because it's going to be wonderful!

    And ultimately, Revelation is about the complete scaling back of Satan's power, and God reclaiming his creation. The Kingdom of Heaven will be joined with the Earth. And hell is what happens when individuals say to God they don't want to be like him (remember, we're created as image-bearers of God) and don't want to worship him or be shaped by him.

    So what happens to people who die when they don't know Jesus? I'm not sure. I trust God to judge appropriately, because he knows our situations; he knows our hearts and will judge us in accordance to our own personal revelations.

    Furthermore, and conversely, we can't think of heaven as a cloudy floaty afterlife. Jesus came to bring a physical resurrection and a perfected body to his people. His resurrection was the first example of that. The belief in a Christian afterlife is a belief in a physical resurrection, ie, life literally after death, not a floating disembodied state.

    This is a very basic skimmed over version of what I believe. N.T. Wright speaks on the subject extensively, so I'd suggest checking him out:

  • robertcornero

    Oops, this video should have also been posted.

  • Jeannie

    John, don't get a big head, but you freaking rock! Where were you when I was 15 anyway. BTW, on another subject, I think you may have inadevertantly answered your earlier question as to why you don't enjoy Christian music. Since that music almost always asserts that we are not to worry about life down here, this life isn't important and that we have all the correct answers.

  • Diana A.

    Forgot to request notification on comments again. Silly me!

  • I love this line: "It's an irrelevant question because its the wrong question."

    Personally, I'm also not so sure that whether Heaven exists is also the wrong question.

    I don't want to have a relationship with God and with Christ so that I can reserve my room at the Streets of Gold Hotel. Making that the end goal turns my relationship with God into a sick illusion of love. If I'm only loving God so I can get to Heaven, I'm loving Him for all the wrong reasons.

    If I focus on the right here, right now, I can look at a world full of miracles. I can feel the Spirit of God in ways that are real and meaningful. I can look at the million ways that lives are being changed and made better by the love of Christ and by embracing a relationship with my Creator for what He is, not what He promises. The more I learn about Him the more I want to love Him. The more time I spend with Him, the deeper that love grows.

    I don't know if I'm in the "right" denomination. I wouldn't even want to try to tell someone else what path to God is the right one for them. Seek God first, the rest will follow.

    My 8 year old daughter asks me questions about God. Her father is an atheist, and she wants to know who is right. I have told her as gently and lovingly as I can that what's important is that she form her own belief, regardless of what I or her father believe. I take my kids to church because they love going there, when they ask me questions about God and the bible I answer them to the best of my knowledge with the caveat that this is MY understanding and that they should seek God in their own ways and not just take my word for it. I want them to know and love God, but ultimately that is not something I can force onto them. When they are ready to seek Him, they will find that He has been there all along.

  • Kim

    John, I love your compassion for this young man and the patience in your answer. But I have to agree with Jeanine on this one; the Bible is clear in its description of hell. Hell is real. Humans choose it for themselves, though…God is specific in His guidelines — He simply wants us to love him and to believe in the salvation that Christ offered. It's really easy to think of that simple act as our ticket to heaven. However, you and I both know that rebellion is rampant and there are many people who are so angry at the mention of surrender to God they angrily refuse to consider His sacrifice for them. God gave us free will in the beginning; knowing He was giving us the ability to accept or reject His love. He simply thought we were worth the risk and did not want to force love on us; He wants us to choose Him. "Unshakable Foundations" is an awesome apologetics book (written by Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino). It would probably be a little over this young man's head, but for you or any of your readers it may prove invaluable. I've read it in my Apologetics course; William Lane Craig's "Reasonable Faith" is great too, and his website is easy to surf and gather information about God, heaven, hell, love and Christ.

    This young man needs to find a contemporary, patient Christian church with a pastor willing to encourage his questions. I know of some awesome New England churches!


  • DR

    This response of yours actually breaks my heart. Its flippant judgement on "how" an encouragement to explore who Jesus is rejects the omnipotence of God who has absolutely no need of His followers being formulaic in their reply regarding one's tone and manner.

    Instead, someone like John can respond from the love and the experience of his redemption through Jesus and the Holy Spirit can translate that into the organic "Good News", knowing the hearts of both the one who offers it and the one who is receiving it.

    The dismay that you and others express when the way someone offers their experience of Jesus is in at least in my opinion, a display of disrespect toward the Holy Spirit. Overprotectiveness is sometimes the greatest sign of disrespect. The Holy Spirit needs no protection, for ultimately we've been offered the absolute and rigid dignity of finding what we seek. If one is *really* seeking the True Presence of Jesus? One will do whatever they can to find it. There is wisdom in cautioning against false prophets, but at a certain point our hearts – if they are designed by God – will long for the True Presence of Jesus if we are truly looking for it and reject what false prophets have to offer.

  • DR

    Oh, this reply. How beautiful. Thank you.

  • DR

    Hell is not necessarily required reading if one is pursuing a relationship with Jesus and wants to know more. For me, the topic of hell is one that christians with some years under their belt can safely tackle, but too often it's used as a scare tactic for vulnerable, impressionable people.

    Again this is only my experience, perhaps some who were scared of hell were ushered into a more rich, fuller experience of transformation as a result of that beginning catalyst so this may not at all be applicable across the board (most things aren't). But when I had an experience with Jesus, hell – or even heaven – had absolutely nothing to do with it. It's all about the present day and the experience of being Loved to my core via Grace and the way I live and the quality of my relationships and the light within my interior as a result of that.

  • Jeanine

    Yes, but in this case, the Spirit has already done the prompting. He already knows this boys heart. Your years of experience as a Young Life staff leader do not equip you to know this particular boy.

    If the boy is asking about Hell, why would we not give him the answers to his questions? I am not saying that you tell him to turn or burn. I am saying that hell is his concern, and telling him what Jesus has to say about hell leads very easily into showing him the glorious promise that Jesus offers those who come into a right relationship with him.

    This is not a descipleship situation. How does it hurt to give him actual Biblical answers to his questions before he decides it is no longer an urgent question?

  • Kim

    I was raised as a Catholic and had questions exactly as this young man has, everytime I attended mass, Sunday school, studied catechism, or was asked what religion I "was". Because these kinds of options were never offered to me by someone like John, I have spent most of my life pretending to believe in specific religious traditions; I have NEVER been true to my true beliefs until the past 5 years (I am now 52). Think of how much more focused, less guilty, and happy I would have been to have been given permission by a knowledgeable person like John Shore to REALLY learn about different religions and find what it is I – *I* – truly believe and need from spirit?

    I respect as much as possible people of all faiths (I have affixed a "COEXIST" sticker to my car to share this with the world!). Your views on simpley choosing Christianity and going with it strike me as exactly what happened to my siblings and I, and as such three of us are now atheist, and one is what I call "chronic Christian" – not meaning to be disrespectful at all to Christians in general but in my sibling's case it has become an excuse for not moving forward in her life.

    That aside, John, I am not a religious person anymore, but I think your response to this young, impressionable boy may just give him the courage to REALLY find out how HE feels about God, spirituality, and religion. Bravo, my friend. Bravo!

  • DR

    My years of experience in dealing with kids who are just as scared as this one prompts me to offer what I did regarding this young man. It looks like we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

  • DR

    I believe in hell. I just don't know *what* I believe about it, but enough where it provides an important boundary for a lot of things. But I definitely understood it more and how the idea of hell could co-exist with a loving God after a few years of a different life with Christ under my belt.

    Of course we're all just speaking out of our experiences here, I think Jeanine's matter of fact "He asked it, why not answer?" is understandable. But wow, watching kids who actually ask that question and then freak when they get an answer – I've not seen it be terribly sustainable. But that's me!

  • Diana A.

    The notion of Hell as a reason to believe in Jesus or anything else has always struck me as being a form of emotional blackmail. If Jesus is real and worth believing in, one shouldn't need to be threatened into doing so. It is exactly this kind of emotional blackmail that drives people away from Jesus instead of toward him.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    It's interesting that you would use the analogy of a coat (although I believe "cloak" is the more precise term for what they had in the Roman-era Holy Land).

    I certainly agree though that you can't “conform it to your taste”.

    You seem to build your viewpoint around the assumption of the truth of the Bible, while it seems that part of this young man's question is whether the Bible is right at all. So pointing to answers in Scripture is irrelevant at this point. It would mean nothing but to reinforce the question: How can you be so sure the Bible is true (when, for example, there are over a billion people just as strongly convicted of the truth of the Koran)?

  • Diana A.

    This topic is and always has been a sensitive issue to me. It's been the primary drive behind much of my biblical study and my religious studies in general. I said in another one of my comments that the notion of Hell has always seemed to me to be one of emotional blackmail. The bottom line for me is that God already knows our hearts, so threatening somebody with Hell in order to get them to believe just seems silly to me.

  • Jeanine

    I really don't agree. I think that the notion of Hell puts the Holiness of our God on display. He is not like us. He is perfect in everything. He is absolutely just and fair. Sin is something that He does not wink at and sweep under the carpet like we do.

    Hell is a place prepared for the devil and those loyal to him. The thought of this comforts me; that people like Hitler will ulitmately be dealt with. The Holiness of God is an awsome concept to share with this young man. Sin will not always exist. This is such rich information in understanding who God is.

    But then to also tell himof the awsome mercy and love of our Lord. I wonder if even now, after so many years of walking with the Lord and studying His Word, that I have even a bit of understanding of what it cost Him to put His son on that cross for my sins. The love of God is on display in the message of the cross! This cross has no real meaning if we don't understand the whole picture of our own sin and what we desrve.

  • Jeanine

    Honestly, I am just so tired of people who are afraid to give a reason for the hope that lies within them. Christians are not stupid people, who just take everything on faith. They have good reasons for what they believe and very good answers for alot of these questions.

    Obviously, he will make his own decision; but we owe it to him to answer what he asks.

  • ManimalX

    Thank you for sharing this video. I am a great admirer of N.T. Wright, and this was brilliant.

  • Diana A.

    I like this. I don't necessarily agree with all of it (Christian Universalist that I am) but it comes closer to what I believe than some other things I've heard on the same subject.

  • Dan

    A few things popped out at me when I read this.

    First, we are not guaranteed tomorrow, so I don't think it was right to tell him that he has many years to figure this all out. "First of all, there’s no need to worry about this stuff. You’re fifteen" If the Spirit is dealing with him on these issues then let's get this figured out now. Salvation is the goal, not a clear understanding of Heaven or Hell. That will come.

    One thing I do appreciate is your avoidance of using "Christianese" in your response to him. I really don't think I have ever read that in any of your posts anyway. :o) But for those who grew up in the church it is hard to explain answers to these questions with out using terms that we grew up hearing, but that non-believers would understand or relate to.

    I love that this teenager is thinking about all of this! I think that is awesome! I truly hope that the Spirit is dealing with him and that he will trust Christ .

    One last thing, concerning a comment made above about letting our kids choose their belief. As a Believer in Jesus Christ I am trouble greatly by the parents calling themselves Christian who believe this. The Muslims do not "let their kids choose" and we now have a rampant growth of Muslims in every state in our country. They are raising up a generation of youth who are passionate about their beliefs that include hating Jews and Christians. They won't tell you they hate you, but their Koran tells them to smile to your face & curse you in their heart. I am raising my kids to believe that the Bible is the Truth. Jesus is the Son of God. Love your neighbor. What would you rather have, a generation of leaders hating others or a generation of leaders who truly love and care for their enemies.

  • Jeanine

    You are right about your observation. I do beleive that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. I beleive that it reveals who God is, who we are, and the way of our salvation.

    I base all of my statements on what I have learned as the Holy Spirit has directed my studies of that book. (Not to say that I don't use many other sources), but if it conflicts with the Bible, then I discard it as error.

    I have many reasons why I do beleive that the Bible can be trusted. However, in this case, the boy is struggling with a fear of hell. I am not the one who has made him afraid. But I can tell him what the Bible says about hell and what Jesus came to do on our behalf. Not like Jesus is a get of hell free ticket, but how he is the atonement which makes it possible to develope a loving, personal relationship with a living God.

    This would speak more to his immediate fears than giving him evidence for the infallibilty of scripture.

  • Susan High


    If John had answered this boy in any other way, it would've been inauthentic, yep – lying. How can John offer anything but what he believes is true? Furthermore, if someone doesn't know Christ, I'd hardly suggest they be introduced to hell first. I, for one, know how damaging 'motivational fear' can be, and it is the fastest route to a legalistic, paralyzing view of Christianity. Then comes the resentment, and turning away, because the burden is too heavy.

    John's story of redemption plays out virtually every day in his posts. He brings people of all faiths, and no faith, together for real dialogue. I've yet to find a forum like it. Perhaps that is precisely why this young kid came to John in the first place. Somehow this boy found John, which is akin to finding a needle in a hay stack. Then, something prompted him to write John about an issue that had been haunting him.

    How many times do you think it took for the author to google "hell" and find a site or even a person that preached fire and brimstone? Once. How many times do you think he searched the Internet, only to find condemnation? Countless.

    I'd venture to guess that this teen read lots of John's posts, got a feel for this virtual place, until he finally felt safe enough to pose his questions. Someone who cultivates an environment like that…well, it kind of brings to mind, for me, an image of Jesus, with open arms. [No I don't assign any divinity to John, but I believe God works through John's talent] So, I tend to believe finding this needle in the haystack was divine intervention.

    John didn't scare the writer, preach to him, condemn him…he answered him honestly, conveyed his relationship with Jesus and simply said "It's okay to just…be."

    In all that was written and unwritten while this kid was determining whether to hedge his bets with John, and in all that was written and unwritten in John's reply, was probably the best testimony for this 15 year old. If only I'd have experienced this when I was that age, I think I'd have avoided years of turmoil and fear.

    John, thank you for being real, and letting God take it from there.

  • Um. Like.

  • ManimalX

    Jeanine's answers have been spot on. Mr. Shore, you had some great bits of advice in his response, but I think you do this kid (and any others reading this who have the same questions) a disservice by sweeping Hell under a rug.

    Telling someone to "get to know" Jesus is awesome. However, Jesus can't be known in any real or meaningful sense without Hell being a part of the picture.

    He is Jesus CHRIST, remember? The title of "Christ" is an empty one if Hell is taken out of the picture. He wouldn't be much of a Savior if He really wasn't saving anyone from anything! Jesus Himself spoke passionately and often about Hell. Scripture is chock full of information about Hell. God obviously wanted people to know about it!

    This part of the response bothered me the most: "I have no idea if hell is real. Neither does anyone else… …Millions of Christians believe hell is real; millions of Christians believe it’s not. As for me, I don’t care if it’s real. I hate speculating about stuff that I know has no knowable answer."

    The thing is, there IS a knowable answer! God made sure to tell us all about Hell, and He made sure His words were preserved for everyone to see. How can you make the claim that NOBODY knows if Hell is real when it is one of the most plain things in Scripture? That is quite a claim! Unless you view Scripture as merely a collection of nice myths and figurative moral lessons, I guess?

    Also, assuming you accept that there is such a thing as objective truth, it doesn't really mater what "millions of Christians" believe about Hell. If God says it is real, it is real. It doesn't matter if every person in the world believes it or if nobody believes it. Argumentum ad populum doesn't work here.

    For example, even if you managed to convince every person in the world that gravity didn't exist, all the people in the world would still fall down if they jumped off a chair.

    If Hell is a hard subject for you to talk to someone about for whatever reason, that is perfectly understandable! So just tell them that. "Hey, I'm not comfortable answering this question because of X, Y, Z." But to simply tell them, "Hey, great question. But I don't like the subject of Hell and therefore Hell doesn't matter," doesn't help lead anyone into any kind of truth.

  • Susan High

    DR – Love how your mind works.

    I wrote above somewhere in this string how the fear of hell, and condemnation in general, took a toll on me at a very young age and brought about resentment. Resenting God, then feeling guilty about resenting God, at that age, and the cycle— guilt…resentment…guilt…resentment — it did absolutely nothing to make Jesus seem loving.


    'Jesus spoke more about Hell than he did about Heaven. The Bible is full of desrciptions of what it will be like and the fact that it is real.'

    Among other of your statements I have just read..

    If the writer of the letter is reading your words, do you REALLY think you're driving home the message of Jesus' love to him?

  • Susan High

    Bottom line, folks. When you have one chance to convey a message, would you rather concentrate on conveying Christ's love in word and tone, or would you prefer that hell — the reality of it, appropriate descriptions, instructions on how to get more information about it — be what is foremost in the other person's mind when they walk away?

    Yikes and ouch.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Right… the Bible is the capital-T Truth….

    I guess it’s somewhat understandable how you can’t recognize Muslims for the kind, generous, and genuinely loving people that many of them are, towards all, regardless of religion, instead making up some bovine fecal matter about the Koran telling them to hate Christians, which it and hadith do in fact deny.

  • I base all of my statements on what I have learned as the Holy Spirit has directed my studies of that book. (Not to say that I don’t use many other sources), but if it conflicts with the Bible, then I discard it as error.

    Really? What about just the bible itself? How can handle the factual errors and direct contradictions and still think it is infallible? Do you still think pi is three? Can the earth be moved? Are you in full agreement that a bat is a bird, that locusts only have four legs, that birds actually have four legs?

    Come on, Jeanine. How can you literally contrast Genesis 32:30 with John 1:18 and not come to the conclusion that one of these claims must be wrong?

    And knowing that the bible can be factually wrong and internally contradictory, how can you then maintain any intellectual integrity if you are willingness to disregard anything – no matter how indisputable or overwhelming the evidence may be – and believe it to be in error if it counters a biblical claim?

    I just don't get how anyone can do this.

  • DR

    Yep, I see what you're saying. Have I mentioned how much I've enjoyed you here? I appreciate your direct approach, I can make things a little bit too complicated sometimes.

  • DR

    So if this kid (God forbid) died tomorrow with these questions on his mind….would he go to Hell? Seriously?

  • DR

    In all fairness, Jeanine's frustration has some merit. If in fact, the language of Jesus "saving" us is accurate – then what are we being saved "from"? If the answer is some kind of eternal situation that is completely devoid of Love, and if we live a life here on earth that impacts our mind and heart in such a way where we'd actually *prefer* that place (which is what I believe, that people choose hell they aren't sent there). Then her frustration and desire to talk about it makes sense.

    For me it's not if, it's when. So I lean toward John's answer without question. But I don't want to be dismissive of what she is adding to the conversation, there's merit to it (IMO).

  • DR

    YES. All of this, x1000. There is such equity in hell being used as emotional black mail that to even include it in discussion is hard for me. But baby, bath water, etc.

  • Diana A.

    I've quoted this before but I think it bears repeating:

    "I just cannot stick my God into a little time-space relationship here, hindered and always working against the impending physical death….Maybe God is in hot pursuit of us; we've been thinking of giving our heart to Christ. We're thinking so hard on it we're driving along and we don't hear the whistle of a freight train. And bam…it just smashes us to pieces. And God said, 'You know, I almost had him. That freight train beat me to him.' What kind of God is that? A God whose purposes can be voided by a freight train? I can't fit that in."

    Southern Baptist preacher Clarence Jordan, as quoted in "If Grace is True" by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland.

  • I don't know, John. I tend to pay attention to kids and how they feel more than what they think. Therein lies the important stuff.

    Let's check again: Terrible worries? Nightmares? Suffering from anxiety? Thoughts about what happens after death?

    I'm not a psychiatrist, but these words do not describe the typical "What's it all about?" teenage angst, which I think you answered very well. They represent what seems to me to be a tangible fear with very real physiological symptoms that need more than a bit of verbal guidance and reassurances to come to terms with. They need a way to be expressed and explored and understood and dealt with in a effective and meaningful manner.

    I think the advice to talk again with parents is bang on but not about the religious aspects of the thoughts but, rather about the feelings that accompany them; I don't think this young man is able to deal with the feelings appropriately and that's just a matter of learning how to do so without the fear and anxiety. Put another way, if my child told me he was feeling these emotions and was suffering from these symptoms, I would seek medical interventionist help sooner rather than later because what's going on right now doesn't seem to be working out so well. And I'm not talking about an exorcism. I think this letter is a cry for help and not merely one seeking theological advice on how to proceed with the theological inquiry.

  • Susan

    @ Jeanine @DR

    This is obviously a hot button topic for me, and although I absolutely think John's answer was uber awesome for many reasons, I was rude to you Jeanine, and certainly didn't show Jesus' love through my remarks to you. My sincere apologies.

    Thanks DR for pointing that out.

    Going to pick up some humble pie on my way home tonight.

  • JohnB

    I disagree about Jesus speaking more about hell than heaven.

    Our version of the bible translates Hades into Hell. Based on a quote in acts from a psalm in the old testament, it should have been translated into something that more closely resembles the Hebrew word Sheol. Sheol (in period literature) meant pit, grave, or place of rest. Place of rest is nothing like place of torture. The references to Hell (root word Gehenna) in the Sermon On the Mount only appear in four (or five?) root references. Gehenna was a slang term for the valley of hinnom, which really was a hellish place that was just down the road. That contextually fits into the sermon he was giving, and thinking it was some spiritual dimension is really stretching things since he never mentioned it before or after the sermon. If it really was that important, don't you think the term Gehenna would have come up in the writings of the apostles or Paul?

    I don't think he ever mentioned hell, and instead think it was added into Christianity by Roman religious tradition, and later people quote mined Jesus to try to prove it. (ok, there's my opinion)

    Check out work by Thomas B. Thayer on the doctrine of eternal punishment from 150 years ago or so. Very compelling argument.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Oooh… good one! I mean about Gen 32:30 contrasted with John 1:18. Especially as Gen. 32:30 is *so* pivotal to the entire Biblical story, being at the origin-point of Israel, the Kingdom of our LORD, and both verses touch on such profound and important truths!

    The verses cited are as follows:

    So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

    No one has ever seen God, but God the Only Begotten, who is at the Father's side, has made Him known.

    I'll try to explain this in the simplest way possible. First, it was indeed God the Son, the Only Begotten, whom Jacob saw on that day, and, just as the disciples too saw Christ, this does not invalidate the later verse from John. For by the time that verse was written and to this day, not a single individual is there in the world who has at any time in their life actually "seen" God. Yet to this day, Christ makes Him known, as He has, previously, more directly unto Israel—when, notably, it was he and not God, who made the quoted statement.

    (The other problems you point out I consider trivial. I have addressed some of them before, but I'm sure you could find a million Christian apologists who'd leap at the chance to do the same if anyone’s really interested. I myself, however, am not a big fan of apologetics.)

  • Jeanine

    I disagree. The Bible clearly teaches that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This boy is on the verge of getting real answers to his questions; not some feel good, no pain – no gain psychology. The beauty of the the Lord Jesus is that he gives us the truth – and it is real and it is dependable. That truth can get you through anything, and truth casts out all fear.

  • Jeanine

    No offense, but I am tired of answering these same 'so called' contradictions. They are handpicked by those who do not want to accept the authority of scripture. They hear some speaker or author point them out; they go to thier Bible and read them, and say, huh? I guess it does contain errors.

    My first question to anyone who points these same things out again and again and again is – have you read the entire Bible from cover to cover at least once – preferably many times since it is the weightiest book in the universe and could potentially contain eternal consequences?

    The Bible is written by many various writers of all different time frames under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. All of the books are not written in the same literary style. Some books or historical, some are prophetic, some are poetic, etc. I do not read secular poetry the same way that I read a biology textbook. Neither do I read the book of Matthew with the same thought process as I read Revelation.

    A person might say that it is raining cats and dogs, but that does not mean it is literally raining cats and dogs; but we all understand that it was raining very hard.

    These so called 'errors' often come up because the reader does not properly understand the literary style in which it was written.

  • ManimalX

    @ Susan High

    Hell is an integral part of the gospel message, no way around it. And if the questioner is specifically asking about Hell, why is it wrong to give them a straightforward answer?

  • Diana A.

    "Hell is an integral part of the gospel message, no way around it."

    Is it? Integral? Really?

    The term "gospel" as you know means good news.

    Is Hell good news?

    I have no issue with giving straight-forward answers. But John was the one who was asked and it was John's prerogative to give the answer he thought was best, just as you are free to disagree with that answer.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I hate to start disagreeing with you again, but I think these are just a normal part of emotional/spiritual/intellectual development for some people.

    I myself never really worried about hell. I'm too perfect to have to worry about that. (Or, probably more accurately, I got my concepts of God from sources that focused on the positive—how I would go to heaven—and by the time I could wonder about the people in, say, Africa, God seemed kind of remote anyway—there were more important things (at least, that's how they felt to me then) to worry about in my life, but eventually I began truly to understand it, and light of knowledge pushes aside the fears of darkness.)

    Nevertheless, when I was younger I did have a recurring nightmare about it. And the Satanic voice from those nightmares would sometimes come to mind while I was awake if I was alone in a quiet place. It felt like pure evil. These things happened rarely, but over the course of a few years. (I've forgotten (or at least choose not to remember) most of the details, but the frightening dreams—which didn’t, like, keep me up at night or anything or bother me too seriously; I’d just wake up pretty quickly, get over it, and fall back asleep—occurred maybe a few times in the first week, once a week for the next three or so weeks, and then a couple more times within a year, starting sometime when I was around twelve; and the voice and associated anxiety—which didn’t last any longer than it would take me to go turn on the TV or something—came to mind every few months to a year until I was sixteen.)

    And in an unrelated dream once, the devil was tempting me to deny Christ and threatening me will torture (a threat I took as very real). I don't know what came over me, in the foolishness and idealism that is youth and slumber, but I dared to refuse him! But before he could harm me, I awoke, and felt more victorious than anxious.

    Like with this young man's nightmares, we should realize that they're just dreams—no more real than a horror movie, and in my opinion he's probably mature enough to handle those.

    Although ManimalX brought up a good point about Mr. Shore's dismissiveness of the possibility of knowledge about hell, it still isn't an issue worth expending much effort fretting over or wasting a lot of time on, when seeking actually the Spirit of Love. And if one is saved, one doesn't need to worry, and if one is not, one probably wouldn't know that he or she should.

    I don't think it requires the time and money of seeking a professional "interventionist" (unless by that we mean God). But of course I do not know this young man, nor am I any kind of psychological expert; so it could indeed be that I'm mistaken. God knows best.

    John Shore wrote:

    "I want to be good, helpful, honorable, charitable, generous, compassionate, loving, kind, forgiving, thoughtful, diligent, patient, cheerful, hopeful, and the best husband any woman ever had."

    Here's what I think: if a man does his best to be all of those things, and God would send him to Hell, that's not a God you need to be worshipping anyway.

  • Diana A.

    I think I agree with you on most of this, if not all.

    Especially the last two paragraphs.

  • Kim

    I would never suggest talking to a scared teenager about hell. I simply felt that John's response was too "feel good theology" for me. I feel there's a way to admit to the existence of hell without scaring the pants off the kid. The knowledge of hell cannot be introduced to a child. But John, if you were having a conversation with another believer, would your view on hell be different? William Lane Craig has said that not everyone who hasn't heard the Gospel will go to hell. There are people who haven't heard the story of the love and saving grace of Christ who will still go to heaven simply because had they heard, they would've believed. (I have to listen to the podcast again to get the whole message…) There is hope and love along with the knowledge of hell. We wouldn't have heaven without hell.

  • DR

    Jeanine, when it comes down to it? The only thing that *any* of us have is our interpretation of the Bible. Those who take the approach that their interpretation is the most accurate and if other's interpretations don't align with theirs, they are "in error". That posture could almost be as spiritually dangerous as the errors you imagine.

    The truth is that Jesus spoke of Hades. We weren't there. We don't have the full mind of Christ. We see things through a broken, cloudy mirror and that includes scripture. We've absolutely no way of proving what Jesus *really* meant – we weren't there and the Scriptures we have are subject to those that interpret them for us (which includes both yours and mine) as well as the Wheel of Fortune Bible games we play individually.

    The Bible is complex and it annoys me to watch it boiled down to "Wow I'm awfully tired of watching others twist the meaning of what the Word of God is" when in fact? All you really have is just your interpretation. As a Catholic, I face this all of the time with Evangelicals who are ready to tell me that the way I understand Scripture is wrong when in fact, Evangelicals embrace the idea of a "Trinity" which isn't explicitly stated in the Bible at all.

    While I like your straightforward approach, it seems like you're approaching this discussion with a belief that you've cornered the market on what "hell" actually is according to Jesus and practically? We just will never know that this side of heaven (or hell).

  • DR

    I don't think you were rude. We're all grown ups here, sparring comes with the territory.

  • DR

    You are my FAVORITE.

  • Diana A.

    Thank you! (Blushes.)

  • DR

    Matthew, that last sentence. LOVE.

  • Kara

    John, I love you. (Platonically.)

    I lent out my copy of “I’m Okay, You’re Not” several months ago to a guy who moved away without giving it back (the bastard), but this post reminded me of that whole book quite a bit, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to pick up several more copies when I get the cash, because this kind of stuff is what Christians today need to hear.

    You rock, and this answer rocks, and the guy who asked the question rocks, and this post has put me in a good mood.

  • Hey Answer Guy. Why can’t you tickle yourself?

    Seriously, I love this post and it seems to support my contention that I will have the honor of hanging out with you in heaven even if I never formally accept JC as my feudal lord or savior.

    I will be hanging out this weekend in Pomona which I know is not particularly close to heaven or Escondido.

  • This is also my understanding. A metaphorical place of abandonment by God. And eternal life seems to mean life in The Eternal.

  • Jeanine

    You say that we do not have the full ming of Chirst,but the Bible teaches differntly about Spirit filled believers:

    1 Corinthians 2:12 and 16 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

    16 "For who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

    We rely on the work of the Holy Spirit to help us to understand the scriptures. Jesus even told his desciples that this would be so.

    Jesus said:

    John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

    Jesus calls him the Spirit of Truth ( not the spirit of love which I read in someones comments here). He told his followers that he will guide us into all truth.

    Yes – I absolutely believe that I can know the truth now and so can anyone else who is born again of the Spirit. You see, I corner the market on absolutely nothing; but I do know the one who corners the market on Truth.

  • I like this little parable.

  • Jeanine

    Jesus told us to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

    Please allow me to ask you, what does that mean to you? How can you worship the Truth about Jesus if you have no way of knowing it for sure.

    The fact that I was not there to hear him personally does not bother me in the least, because he is still alive today and very actively teaching and leading his children.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    "Jesus calls him the Spirit of Truth ( not the spirit of love which I read in someones comments here)."

    I suppose, you are referring to me. I never said that Jesus referred to the Spirit that way. I was not quoting a verse of scripture, as you were. Yet what I say is true; for I speak of the Spirit of God, and God is love! (1 John 4:8,16)

  • I agree that the young man's question shows the fear of the Lord. I hope John's reply may help him move a little along the way from the beginning. No doubt he is also moved to honor his father and his mother. And to reject the false gods which would deny him use of the reason God has given him. Yet, the heart has a reason of which the reason knows nothing. I think some famous math person said that.

  • Jeanine

    No, sorry, I was referring to a different post.

  • I realize this is off topic but important enough to follow up for the moment.

    Well, MT and Jeanine, you may consider the (something like) dozens of references to the stationary earth (I think I found 63 but that was many years ago) as either trivial or stuck under the heading of "because the reader does not properly understand the literary style in which it was written." But that's merely an avoidance technique. Pi, no matter what kind of literary style is used to describe it, is not 3. Writing metaphorically, the devil here is in the details and the claim is factually wrong no matter what excuses are made for it.

    Apologetics is merely an excuse to obfuscate and reinterpret the claim's theological square peg to fit into knowledge's round hole. But of importance for us to remember is that people who dared to question scripture with contrary proofs and bring it forward often suffered much to do so. I don't think bringing us that knowledge – like the heliocentric model – was trivial in the least. Nor do I think it is intellectually honest to conveniently take modern knowledge and alter the bits of scripture that are factually wrong (global flood? young earth? creationism?) and reinterpret them into metaphorical statements. This is clearly an a priori approach that is driven solely by theological belief that contradicts, and is incompatible with, how we come to know anything else about our world.

    If you think about it, assuming the bible (or any ancient scripture) is inerrant means that all subsequent inquiries must first be in line with the theological claims they may address. That's not honest inquiry; that is pretending to already 'know' the right answer without allowing any means to find out if it is true. That's not a 'different way of knowing'. That's a knowledge stopper.

  • Soulmentor

    Excellent advice John. Forget about figuring out God and concentrate on Jesus and how he represented God to us. I think if you live the golden rule, whether or not Hell is real, won’t matter. All the rest is irrelevant.

    As for Hell, if the young man is still curious, he could read “The Origin of Satan” by Elaine Pagels.

    “A History of Heaven” by Jeffrey Burton Russell can also be enlightening.

  • Jeanine

    Can you give one or two of these examples of stationary earth that you are refering to.

  • Diana A.

    Actually, I'm more interested in the verse which says that "pi"=3. I don't remember reading that verse.

  • Jeanine

    John, your answer to this young boy breaks my heart; as if he is selecting a new car or the kind of dog he wants to get someday.

    Just shove the idea of ‘hell’ into the back recesses of your mind counting on the fact that you will live long enough to fall into a satisfactory answer. When the fact is, none of us are guaranteed to live another day.

    Jesus spoke more about Hell than he did about Heaven. The Bible is full of desrciptions of what it will be like and the fact that it is real.

    Christianity is not something you slip on like a coat to see if it fits. You cannot try it out, give a nip and a tuck here and there and conform it to your taste.

    God must be sought after with all of your heart. He will answer your questions as you diligently seak Him in his word and in his Spirit.

  • Andrew Ditty

    Please, no one buy into this post. It is exactly opposite of the story of the Bible. "Young man,"

    get your answers from the Bible. It is the right religion. And there is a Hell. These questions do matter!

  • Diana A.

    “You wouldn’t care if God being angry with you meant he was going to give you a stern lecture, or the Ultimate Wedgie, or send you to your room without any manna.”

    Oh, I don’t know. The Ultimate Wedgie sounds pretty scary to me! 😉

    Seriously though–good post, as always!

  • Jeanine

    Me either.

  • ManimalX

    @ Diana A:

    What Jeanine said.

    I didn't say Hell was good news, I said it was an integral part of the gospel message.

    If there were no consequence for Jesus to save us from, then the Good News would just be the News.

    Let me try rephrasing for clarity: Eternal separation from God is a necessary element of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because the "good news" is that Jesus made a way for us to avoid that eternal separation.

    @ Jeanine:

    Bravo, Jeanine. I hate to keep using the word, but "brilliant" reply.

    "In order to partake of that gift of salvation we must understand the darkness of our own hearts, understand the punishment we deserve, and accept the atonement that he provides."


  • Diana A.

    And for Heaven's sake, don't think. Don't ask questions. Don't analyze the text at all. Don't consider that it might be wrong. Just swallow it whole, like the proverbial fish and the hook.

  • Jeanine

    Thanks, but I am definitely paddling upstream here.

  • Jeanine

    @ Diana A

    Do you believe in Jesus, and are you a Christian? I am assuming form your posts that you are.

  • Jeanine

    Sorry about all of my typing errors. I am a terrible typer.

  • Diana A.

    Do I believe in Jesus? Yes.

    Am I a Christian? Depends upon who you ask.

  • Jeanine

    I was raised a Christian and did not buy the 'whole' thing. Although I always believed in God and thought I was saved. Sadly, nobody at my church could reconcile what I was being taught in school with what the Bible teaches.

    Actually i spent many of my young adult years reading and studying the history of philosophy in college. I dabbled in many new age books, I've heard the modern day arguments of athiests like Dawkins and Hitchens, etc. I had a friend in college who converted to Islam from Christianity and he spent alot of time talking to me and reading to me from the Koran. Finally, in my thirties, I embarked to actually read the entire Bible cover to cover. Up until that time, I had only studied the Bible in sections at church or Bible studies. Since then, I have read it through many times.

    I am fully convinced in myself that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. In fact, the more times I read through it, the more I am struck by the awsome work that it is. There is no stone of human existance that is left unturned – history, romance, war, hate, love, sex, theft, goodness, charity, family, tradition, change, hope, joy, peace, suffering, government, taxes, authority, birth, eternity, humans, God, thought, art, the mind, learning, and I could go on and on and on.

    I love the Word of God and hear God speaking to my heart when I read it. He uses it to hold me up and to bring me low. He uses it to remind me of the past and prepare me for the future. He uses it for reproof and correction, for guidance, decision making, encouragement, and again, I could go on and on.

    I love the Word of God and I believe it.

  • Jeanine

    Deut 4:29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

  • Jeanine

    From what source did you learn about the Jesus that you believe in?

  • Diana A.

    Okay, so this is your experience and I'm not telling you that you're wrong. But when you or someone turns around and tells somebody else that they have to buy what you say without having experienced that truth for themselves–and threaten them with the fires of Hell if they don't, this is where I begin to have a problem.

    God gave every person his/her own brain, heart, soul–and everyone has the right to make their own decision regarding God and the Bible even if that decision is wrong. In fact, I'm not sure if one can legitimately call something faith if it is based in the fear that if one dares to question, one will be condemned to Hell's fires. Somehow, there has to be that place wherein one can ask the hard and controversial questions without fear of being zapped.

    My faith, my basic faith in the Love of God, allows me to admit to doubts, allows me to ask questions, allows me to consider the separate tenets within the Bible without swallowing them whole–because I believe that God knows my heart and knows my reasons for doubting and questioning. I do not live in fear that God will send me to Hell for asking a question. This is me trusting God. I could be wrong in that trust, but it is the trust I feel.

  • Diana A.

    I read the Bible.

  • Emily

    Jew here, just enjoying learning more about Christianity in a palatable way from Mr. Shore.

    If it were me, and it kind of is, John's explanation is the ONLY effective one. For me. As someone who was raised in one religion, but was encouraged to understand others, the answer "It's the TRUTH, because the Bible says it's the TRUTH," doesn't work for me. The three year old in me immediately pops up, and begins to ask WHY. Why is the Bible right? Why isn't the Qur'an right? What about all of those people in China? God is just going to let them ALL be wrong and go to hell?

    A poster above wrote this, and it will stay with me for a long time: if a person does his best to be good and God still sends him to hell, that's not a God I care to follow.

    I care to follow a God who won't make all of the Chinese babies who die in floods go to hell just because they had never had the opportunity to learn about, and therefore accept Jesus.

    Being told that it is ok to have questions, it is ok to have doubts, and it is ok give trusting God a try, that works for me. You can start just talking to Him, one on one, doesn't even have to be a real prayer that you memorize or anything. Before bed, just have a chat. Talk to Him about all of the stuff that none of your other friends care about. Tell Him about the things you're too embarrassed to tell anyone else. After all, He already knows, so you might as well let Him in on what you were thinking when you did whatever it was that you're so embarrassed about. He is your friend. Your best friend. The one guy you can talk to when none of your other stupid friends would understand.

    If doing these amazing, cathartic exercises while communicating with God is a "wrong" way to learn about Him, well, at least I walked away closer than ever to a God that I wasn't even sure existed.

  • Diana A.

    Beautiful. Thank you, Emily.

  • Jeanine

    The boy is fearful and obviously under the conviction of the Holy Spirit despite his upbringing by unbelieving parents.

    It is not a hard thing to show the boy what God’s word has to say about Heaven and Hell. If you are worried that I might have a poor interpretation in your eyes, then direct him to the verses, pray with him, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead him into the truth.

    But to act like it is a non-question or ‘the wrong’ question is ignoring the Holy Spirit altogether because it is His work that leads us to seek him in the first place and to bring conviction into our hearts.

  • DR

    But to act like it is a non-question or ‘the wrong’ question is ignoring the Holy Spirit altogether because it is His work that leads us to seek him in the first place and to bring conviction into our hearts.>>>

    You just proved my point, Jeanine. Not addressing the question “Does Hell exist”? Is not “ignoring” the Holy Spirit. I’m speaking as one who was a Young Life staff leader for years. A lot of really scared, impressionable kids “accept Jesus as their Savior” as a result of just obtaining fire insurance from Hell and as a result, abandon their faith. Sure, hell might be a catalyst the Holy Spirit uses, I’d betray the point I’m making if I excluded it. But it’s not essential, and that’s after years of watching kid after kid experience a conversion when someone said, “Listen don’t even feel like you have to think about hell right now – decide who you believe Jesus is.”

    Hell is not required reading, even if you say it is and even if you believe the Bible says it is because Jesus talked about it a lot. He also talked about the poor and Christians seem to ignore that pretty well for the most part. So saying things like “Jesus talked a lot about Hell” doesn’t always translate into “Let’s talk about hell immediately when people are feeling drawn to Christianity.”

  • Sure. How about I use the four that the church used to convict Galileo to avoid you of accusing me that I am the one misinterpreting scripture and take up the correct clarification with your local RC clergy:

    Psalms 93:1

    1 Chronicles 16:30

    Psalms 104:5

    Joshua 10:12

    I know that sounds snarky, but I am always told that the fault of incorrect claims in the bible is because the reader doesn't understand it in whatever convoluted way is necessary to make it seem to be true. But I am not the one with a belief historically steeped in doing nasty things to those who dare to subvert the perfect word of god (or Allah, or Yaweh, or Shiva, or Whatever) with what is true.

  • JohnB

    John, my respect for you just keeps on growing. I wish the religious figures from my childhood would have been more like you – I would have so much less baggage.

  • Oh, you non-always-looking-for-math people!

    1 Kings 7:23 "He made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about."

    Close, but no cigar.

    Circumference = Pi x Diameter, which means the line would have to have been over 31 cubits. In order for this to be rounding, it would have had to overstate the amount to ensure that the line did "compass it round about."

  • Very nicely written, D, and one that most atheists would have no problem saying "You go, girl."

  • Diana A.

    “For me, the topic of hell is one that Christians with some years under their belt can safely tackle, but too often it’s used as a scare tactic for vulnerable, impressionable people. ”

    So true!

  • ManimalX

    @ Jeanine

    If it is easy and everyone loves everything you write, then you are probably doing it wrong and shading the truth.

    Expect to meet resistance when speaking the plain truth in love. Real, honest-to-God truth is hard for many people to accept. Pride was the original sin and the original is still king.

    This doesn't have anything to do with Hell, per se, but have some general encouragement:

    John 15:18-38

    "18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates me hates my Father as well."

    You are doing a great job. I really appreciate the way you deliver your message gently, correcting folks just like 2 Timothy 2:25 instructs. After decades of going over and over the same things with what feels like an endless line of skeptics and unbelievers, I have begun to neglect that important instruction. Thanks for reminding me of it by your example.

  • DR

    Ok. It's been nice chatting with you, but it seems like we are just talking at one another at this point, not really with one another. Maybe someone else will be able to express what I am offering better th,an I am.

  • Jeanine

    Yes the gospel means ‘good news’…….. and the good news is – Jesus Christ gave himself and died on the cross to atone for our sins; so that we can be reconciled to a holy God and not receive the punishment we deserve. He loved the world so much that he made the way that none of us could ever make.

    In order to patake of that gift of salvation we must understand the darkness of our own hearts, understand the punishment we deserve, and accept the atonement that he provides.

    As far as I am concerned; there is no better news and there is no better way for God to show his love for me.

    Telling someone that Jesus loves them is all well and good; but it couldn’t have much more of an eternal impact than telling them that their Mom loves them. It may be true; and it may cause me feel well about him in return; but to neglect the reality of what he has done for all of us and more specifically them specifically is to loose site of why he came into the world – to testify to the Truth.

  • like

  • Ah, the Fear Factor. At the age of five, I visited my cousins in Tennessee, which like any good Baptists, included attending all the church services and chocolate cake fellowships it offered. I still have a vivid memory of the pastor, preaching on hell, pounding the pulpit with his shoe. I wasn't sure at that age why he was so angry, and I was scared. My two cousins rushed forward at the altar call, begging Jesus to save them from hell. It turns out this was a weekly occurrence for them.

    Most of my church friends accepted Jesus at a young age because they were scared of hell and everyone else was getting doing it. As we got older, there were discussions about who was 'really' saved, who just had fire insurance, and how many times could you sneak a cigarette before you lost your salvation.

    As an older teen in a fundie cult group, we really ramped up the fear – we had to preach to everyone we met on the street so if they rejected the Gospel and went to hell, it wasn't our darn fault. One other member told me of his conversation story which involved asking Jesus into his heart four different times because he realized he hadn't said the correct string of words the first three times. I remember feeling relief that he had so narrowly escaped hell. Then I started wondering if I had done it 'right'.

    I envy that this young man doesn't have a lot of religious baggage to get past .I hope he continues to seek answers as you suggested, John. When you truly meet the Lord, no important questions remain.

  • Nice. I am reminded of a friend who was proud that he had witnessed so forcefully about hell that his victim prayed the prayer on the street corner to keep from getting hit by a bus when he crossed the street before he could be saved.

  • Jeanine

    I am not sure how anyone on this post has gotten the message from me that if you question God and his Word that you are damned to hell. And I am even more unclear as to how anyone has interpretted that I am using hell to threaten people into becoming a Christian. As far as I can tell, I have said absolutely nothing of the sort.

    I have merely stated that this boy asked about hell, and there are a multitude of scriptures that talk about hell. Why on earth would you not show him those scriptures and discuss the gospel with him? Are you ashamed of the work Jesus did on the cross? Are you afraid that you might be leading him astray? Maybe you don't really believe in the atonement and resurrection yourself? I can't figure that one out. If you say you are a Christian, and you love Jesus Christ, and you read the Bible yourself – then why would there be an issue in your heart with sharing that with someone who has asked a direct question?

    You are 100% correct in saying that every person is on a one on one when it comes to God. Nobody can force anyone into a relationship with the Lord and God can spot a conterfiet.

    To say that I trust scripture is not to say that I have mastered it. The Lord points out sins in my heart and errors in my thinking at Bible studies and quiet reading times often.

    But for some reason, Jesus has told us to go out and share the Good News of the gospel with all the nations. I'm sure he was well aware that we would fall short and not be perfect; never the less, he commanded us to do it. He knew that Adam and Eve would sin; never the less he still created them and placed them in the garden with the tree of knowledge. He also promised that we would not be alone and that his Spirit would go with us as we share the gospel. Honestly, I do not trust in my ability to convey what God's word says perfectly; but I am trusting fully in his Spirit to lead me.

  • DR

    Jeanine: I am not sure how anyone on this post has gotten the message from me that if you question God and his Word that you are damned to hell.>>>

    I think perhaps what others are wanting you to understand is there are a lot of Christians out there who for them, (us), we don't interpret the Scriptures quite the way you do and thus, would probably not have the type of conversation you seem to indicate that people need to have. You seem to be communicating that anyone who isn't aligning with your interpetations on what Jesus said and why as being "in error" (your words, not mine). And perhaps you're the one in error. That's it.

  • Jeanine

    Psalm 93:1

    New King James Version About NKJ

    The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The Lord is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved.

    1 Chronicles 16:30 Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.

    Psalm 5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.

    These three situations are slightly different from the one in Joshua, and actually the one that you sighted in Joshua stands out in cotrast to these three, because I believe he is talking about a day when the earth did not move.

    Joshua 12 On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: "O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon." 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!

    This verse is in Joshua is talking about a miracle that was done on this one particular day which showed all people on the face of the earth that the Lord was standing on the side of Israel in the battle. I do believe that this literally happened; but obviously there is no way to gather evidence for it today. It sounds to me like it was a miracle. But it shows that Biblical writers were aware that the earth is not stationary – long in advance of science showing up.

    As per the first three, those are songs of Praise written by David to the Lord. He is praising the Lord that all that the Lord has created – in this case the world – will not be moved. To say that something will not be moved does not have to imply that it stays still in one spot. He was not writing a science textbook on astronomy. I think all he was saying is that God has created the earth and nobody else has the power to destroy what he has done. I f you read the entire Psalm, you will see that he is Praising the Creator as the most powerful, most high God. He is using poetic language to worship the Lord. Praising him for his soveriegnty – that nothing he does can be moved by anyone else.

    To say that I have 'made up my mind and will not be moved' for instance, does not mean that I will stand in one place forever. It means that I will not change my mind about a thing.

    I think a reading of Job 38-42 is an awsome one. God is asking Job to explain the things of nature and the creation to him. Obviously to contrast his wisom and understanding with that of Job. To me, this is a more scientific type expostition.

  • Jeanine

    Oh, I see. Well, then, if you were to talk to him about Hell, what would you tell him and why?

  • DR

    Based on my experience? I'd say pretty much exactly what John said.

  • Matthew Tweedell


    "But it shows that Biblical writers were aware that the earth is not stationary – long in advance of science showing up."

    I'm apologize if I've missing something, but how does it show that?

  • Gina Powers

    Mr. Shore: love this. Love ya like a brother. Damn skippy I will repost this tomorrow; for now, the Sominex kicked in and I gots to go to bed. But EXCELLENT post!!!

  • DR

    Jeanine, you are encountering Christisns who have a very different approach than yours. Consider that it’s actually not a spiritual attack or you are ” fighting the good fight”. People are as ManimalX suggesting, speaking the truth in love to you here.

    Some us might be wrong. Or you could be wrong. Or we are all wrong. That’s what a few of us are saying to you. I think you are wrong, but no one is attacking you. I can’t tell if you feel that, so am offering it in case you do.

  • DR

    Isn’t saying all of this to a teenager the context here?

  • DR

    I know the instinct of wanting to make others understand that there are those who love the Word of God as much as she does, but have drawn different conclusions about what it offers regarding a lot of things. And our comfort level in admitting that we may not be sure or that we msy even be wrong is different as well.

    I remember that terror I would feel when someone pressed me to the wall on something and I couldn’t admit the inconsistency.i had built my house on shifting sand which was knowing I was RIGHT about the things of God instead of the Presence of God. It was terrifying to step away from that, but my faith is the better for it.

  • Jeanine, you are avoiding the point: the earth is not stationary, nor is it the center of anything. (Going through some old papers, the 63 references I mentioned earlier seems to be 67 and in reference to the earth being at the center of the universe.) The factual claims about the earth itself and its lack of planetary movement are wrong in that they are factually incorrect and yet were used as scriptural facts to condemn Galileo. They were not understood to be metaphorical until after the predictive power of the heliocentric theory was shown to be reliable and accurate and far less complicated than the ptolemic system of retrograde planetary motion.

    The point is that a supernatural agency with omniscient knowledge would not pass on factually incorrect information… unless the intent was to fool us. I think that's really weird. But… okay… I've been successfully fooled into thinking the bible makes inaccurate claims.

    As for planetary movement, anyone can watch the night sky and see the stars move across the sky around us. Obviously we must be at the center of this great cosmic wheel if everything revolves around us and our eyes tell us this is so.

    I would expect writers who had only this knowledge to write as if it were so, to write as if all the movement was out there and we were watching as if from a fixed point. That notion matches up nicely with what we see (mostly… except for that darned Venus). But with the telescope (and being able to see the phases of the moons of Saturn) came new information that backed up the Copernican model, one that dared to question the veracity of ancient scripture (gasp!) of the centrality of the earth and claim that it was the earth that moved contrary to our sensory input and clear observations.

    So which claim is true?

    According to you, anything that disagrees with the biblical account is in error because you believe the biblical account MUST be true. Case closed. The Copernican model disagrees with the biblical account so it must be in error, right? You have written as much.

    The question I think is the most important one is: How can we know what's true? Your beliefs or a model that actually works?

    Religious beliefs and our senses – no matter how heartfelt – are simply not trustworthy in the case of planetary movement. Maybe they aren't so trustworthy in other assumptions and conclusions and interpretations we have made. Is there some other way to come to a better understanding than simple belief?

    What you are demonstrating is that you care far more about what you believe rather than be concerned with what is true. And if you don't much care for what is true, then what are you really offering our young man in search of what's true with your advice?

  • Matthew Tweedell

    First, this is entirely the wrong way to approach Scripture. I don’t want people such as the young man who sought out John’s advice to get the wrong idea about how to approach the Bible. This modern Anglo-American overly-analytical worldview is especially problematic when applied it to texts not written with that sort of worldview in mind. If you suppose that everything must neatly fit into one of two categories—that is, be unequivocally either true or false—what do you make of the following pair of sentences? The following statement is the truth. The previous sentence was false.

    I knew it was going to be this verse. I just didn't get to it last night before you already posted your follow-up. It’s always 1 Kings 7:23 (even though 2 Chronicles 4:2 says the same). You get this stuff ultimately from the same sources as the rest of your fellow atheists, and you don’t bother to stop and think about it for yourself. If that's not evidence of a faith, I don't know what is. And the commonality of your sources would indeed seem to constitute a common system of belief then.

    "Round all about" does not mean "perfectly circular". It means not having any corners. The results of the measurements appear to indicate that it was not a perfect circle but somewhat ovular in shape. You are the insisting on fitting them to a formula that there is no reason to apply here. It’s round, yes, like the earth goes round the sun, elliptically. (And, relative to us, the sun does go round the earth {which by the way is a different concept from “world”} in a spiral pattern that inverts every solstice.)

    Even if it were a true circle though, I see no reason it couldn’t be somewhere around 9.7 cubits in diameter and 30.4 cubits in circumference, for example. We know of course that it would have to be rounded at some point, as the ratio pi is irrational, but… 1) you seem to assume that that must be to the nearest whole cubit. Was there such a norm in their architectural or numerical practice that you are aware of? Are you sure they mightn’t have rounded to the nearest 5 or 10? 2) Assuming rounding to the nearest cubit, I see no reason that they would need to round up on the circumference. They take a cord and measure across and find the cord to be closest to 10 cubits in length. They measure off a cord to “compass it round about” and find that cord to be closest to 30 cubits. It doesn’t indicate that a cord of this length would be more than sufficient to wrap all the way around it. Was that the normal measurement practice in their time and place? Then they could have said just about whatever, for a cord of 35 would surely compass it round about, right? But anyway… who ever said it was a circle exactly? It seems that that must just be something you get from people just looking to find a problem.

    In any case, again, I cannot emphasize enough that this is not at all the proper way to view the scriptures. You appear to have some significant misconceptions regarding divine revelation. You are wrong not only in that there’s no mathematical error, but in that you promote and perpetuate the idea that it is acceptable to consider the scriptures in this manner. What good purpose do you serve in doing this? It is a waste of both our time, and people will believe whatever they believed before we got started. Yes, there are ways of the rationalizing qualification dilemma I presented at the end of the first paragraph, and no different are the ways which may be applied to the scriptures! You argue against apologetics, only to turn around and encourage it. Like we are saying to this young man about hell, these are not the issues people should focus their attentions to anyway. (And there is a difference between an “avoidance technique” and knowing the proper prioritization of things.)

  • Matthew Tweedell

    (In case this wasn't explicit enough, part of my point is that it makes no sense to insist that if it were a hair over 30, they would have rounded it up to 31, but 9.51 would *not* have been round up to give us that 10.)

  • Kara

    I have merely stated that this boy asked about hell, and there are a multitude of scriptures that talk about hell. Why on earth would you not show him those scriptures and discuss the gospel with him? Are you ashamed of the work Jesus did on the cross? Are you afraid that you might be leading him astray? Maybe you don’t really believe in the atonement and resurrection yourself? I can’t figure that one out. If you say you are a Christian, and you love Jesus Christ, and you read the Bible yourself – then why would there be an issue in your heart with sharing that with someone who has asked a direct question?

    Because some of us who are Christians, love Jesus Christ, and read the Bible ourselves… Don't believe God sends people to hell. Which is a pretty good reason to tell a teenager that hell isn't what he needs to be focusing on.

    I can love the Bible just as much as you and still end up at a radically different conclusion about its meaning. Believers "being led by the spirit" hasn't kept Christianity from dividing into thousands of radically differing viewpoints. You say that the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to know the truth about what scriptures mean, but the reality is that you often end up with two "spirit-led" people holding contradictory beliefs about what a verse or passage means.

    I'm not saying the Spirit doesn't help us interpret scripture, just that it can't be an end to discussion, because I feel an extreme peace in the Spirit regarding my fervent belief that all human beings will one day be reconciled to God.

    Many people love and follow Jesus in ways very different from traditional conservative protestant tradition. So maybe part of the reason some of us wouldn't sit down to have a long chat with this young man about hell? Is because we don't believe he really needs to worry about that. (Being right with God? Sure. Eternal physical torture in Hell? No.)

  • Diana A.

    What you say reminds of the episode in the book "Tom Sawyer" in which Tom is too ill to attend the revival and so is the only person in town who doesn't "get saved." Even bad boy Huckleberry Finn is wandering around town, tracts in hand–leaving poor Tom to slink home, crushed and convinced that he alone is destined to go to Hell. Sad, funny, and so real to life.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    @Diana A. & @DR

    Thanks, ladies.

  • Dig it. Thank you.

  • I'm sure we'll hang out in the afterlife, Brian. Here's hoping it's in a place where we don't have trouble hearing each other over all the screams of horrible agony.

  • Diana A.

    Too funny!

  • Susan

    Why is there such a fixation on hell? The writer asked more than one question. He didn't ask about hell first, second or even third. I believe John doesn't dole out advice with little thought, so he answered these questions in the manner that was truly John Shore. How can you fault him for being honest, and for not being a robot that gives a formulaic answer and quotes scripture. And he DID answer that question. Because it is simply not how some of us might have answered the question does not in any way make it less of an absolutely beautiful testimony of Jesus Christ. The letter, after all, WAS written to John. And who's to say that his answers were not driven by the Holy Spirit?

    Further, he didn't give a simple "feel good" set of answers. Seems to me that he read the letter and didn't subdivide it into a set of Qs and As, rather he took it all in – the subtleties, the non-questions, the tone and of course the questions, and addressed the writer's concerns in what is likely the best way for the writer to receive the message of Christ's love. John opened that door by expressing his relationship and didn't get into guilt or condemnation to someone who 1) doesn't know if the Bible is true 2) has to go home to parents who don't believe the Bible or John's views ….how much harder do we need make it for someone to be attracted to Jesus until we just repel them? If there was anything more about hell, this questioning boy would probably feel the burden of forced-action, not only to "save" himself but also his parents. Personally, I think it was amazing how John brought the family back into the equation and did so with out judgement.

    This is not an article – it's not a topic that John was addressing – it was a complex individual. John had no control over "Part I" – the letter, only Part II. And his response was to the writer, not us.

    I suppose this is an intense matter for me, because I can kind of relate to the writer. At that age, I had similar worries, and people, although well-intended, added to my anxiety with too much "hell talk" and not enough love. I thnk it is dangerous to make someone eat a banquet of food, when his/her stomach can accommodate only so much. You know what happens after being force fed beyond capacity.

    If any of us think that Jesus can't take it from where John left it, we're not giving Jesus enough credit, and giving John too much responsibility.

    But, this is all only opinion. I don't have complete certainty about lots of things.

  • dingdingdingdingdingdingding!!

  • Kim

    Note: Clarification, this post was in response to Jeanine.

  • Kim

    Susan, excellent response.

  • Jeanine

    Sorry Kara, I guess I will end this coversation right here. You absolutely cannot be reading the same Bible that I have been reading. The book of Revelation itself can leave doubt. And for the life of me, I do not have a clue why you think Jesus had to die. If there is no hell, and we were not all headed there because of our sinfulness to begin with, what was the point?

    Heavenly Father, I long for your truth to be made manifest in this chain of posts. I ask that you will illuminate all of our minds afresh about the reality (or non-reality) of hell. Lord, please be with this 15-year old boy and lead him into the light of your glorious truth. I ask that you will send a witness who will share the Good News of the gospel with him, offering him your truth in love and descipleship, joy and peace, giving him hope and a future in a relationship with Jesus Christ. I thank you for your Spirit which is moving in his heart and I ask this all in the righteous and holy name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be all praise and glory forever. Amen

  • Yeah, Kara. How could you think there's anything ambivilent or abstuse about Revelation?

  • Ha! That’s the perfect word (abstruse).

  • Kara

    You absolutely cannot be reading the same Bible that I have been reading.

    Are you calling me a liar, or calling me stupid? It’s pretty arrogant, in my opinion, to claim that just because I have come to a different conclusion, I must not have the same information as you. I claim you gladly as a sister in Christ, so it’s hurtful to be talked to in such a dismissive manner.

    And for the life of me, I do not have a clue why you think Jesus had to die. If there is no hell, and we were not all headed there because of our sinfulness to begin with, what was the point?

    I believe that Jesus was sent to show us who God is, and to show us how to live. I believe the crucifixion was committed by evil men who were threatened by the potential loss of their ability to sit in spiritual judgment over others. I believe Christ was victorious over evil in the resurrection. I don’t believe that God is incapable of forgiveness or that God orchestrated the brutal torture of an innocent man. I believe God’s love is so deep and so unconditional that eventually, all will be reconciled. I don’t believe God metes out infinite punishment for finite transgression. Because that would make God… Evil.

    Also, the prayer-for-this-comment-thread thing seems kind of condescending to me. I don’t understand why me disagreeing with you is so appalling to you.


    I lost my manual on the officially-approved interpretation of 2000 year old Greek manuscripts. (Copies of 2000 year old Greek manuscripts written in metaphors.) Since then, Revelation has been, I dunno… Hard, and stuff! Complicated and not-especially-literal seeming! If you find a copy of that interpretation manual, can you send it my way? I’m absolutely lost over here with only logic and a heart that seeks to know the truth. You know how useless that stuff is.

  • Gina Powers

    Susan (AND Diana A)–YEEAHHH, baby!! THIS. Outstanding–need I say more? I think not. Jeanine and Manimal? I know you initially spoke with concern, but you’ve just crossed into simply annoying and judgemental. And in case you’ve not been paying attention, judgementality is one of THE biggest reasons some folks find Christianity odious. Let God speak to people through HIS means, even if YOU don’t agree with every damn jot and twiddle. And stand back and prepare to be astounded. 😉

  • Leslie

    Marcus, I love this. What a wonderful way to look at it.

  • DR


    Love covers a multitude of sins and I’m sure you have a very good heart. And who knows, your version of what hell is and when we should tell a 15 year old boy about it may not be wrong – who knows? I don’t, and I’m glad to find so many people who feel the same way, who don’t believe that God needs to be wrapped up in a hell-wrapped package.

    As for you, I hope you someday find the peace that comes from letting go of the false God of being “right” about God instead of just being in the Presence of God. I really do. I’ve been where you are and I’ve faced the same kind of fears when coming up against people who don’t toe the line with what I absolutely knew the truth to be. It was pretty scary and I lashed out at them, inferred they were in spiritual error, prayed for them to “see the light” and actually felt comfortable telling them how wrong they were. I really thought I was helping, I didn’t realize how blinded I was.

    But after a ton of prayer and continued exposure to some different perspectives, I was able to face my fears about being wrong and was validated by the actual Love of Jesus – I didn’t cling to the structure around Him, the community around him, and the preset beliefs that others insisted I take on in order to be in the Body of Christ club. My experience of Grace and redemption and everything else in between really started then. But that’s my story, it doesn’t have to be yours. Nor does yours need to be mine.

    I hope you stay and keep adding your perspectives. You’re really articulate and you are obviously motivated by the care and concern you have for others. If not, that’s fine too.

  • Tim

    Wow! This one hits close to home for a lot of us, no doubt. After nearly 30 years of practice, I’d like to find the douche that said, “practice makes perfect”,and paste him/her a good one in the chops. As far I know, Jesus is Lord. All any of have to go by is our wits, our gut and what in the Bible we can reconcile as true. Maybe not the answer I would have given, but then this isn’t my frigid’ blog, now, is it?

    You go, John. Write or wrong, God will use what you told him. Jesus, where is the trust?

  • Tim

    Sorry, iPad screen keyboards are a tad glitchy.

  • Tim,

    I happen to worship at a Methodist church (and have done so for about 25 years, so I think I’m settled in pretty well). In Methodism, there’s an idea called the “Wesley Quadrilateral”, which your sentence “All any of us have to go by is our wits, our gut, and what in the Bible we can reconcile as true” very nearly parallels. In figuring out what to think about spiritual matters, we are to rely on scripture, tradition, experience and reason. If that ain’t “wits, guts and what [scripture] we can reconcile as true”, I don’t know what it.

    Rockin’ reply, dude.

    And John: You’ve done it again. I am lucky to have two pastors. One at Wesley UMC in San José, and another on the Internetz.

  • Soulmentor

    That is surely a bewildering answer to a searching teen who is trying to discover what God is. I'm 66 and even I'm not sure of an answer. I barely have a concept at all…….if I try to know "GOD". It is the age old question we will never get the answer to… this life…..IF we try to know God directly. That is not possible so I don't dwell on it; merely indulge my intellectual curiosity occasionally. (For me God is not He or She. God is IT. I AM. To call God He or She is to make God in our image)

    But there is another way to know God and His name is Jesus. If anyone in all of humanity had the answer, it was Him, and he showed it to us. That answer that Jesus illustrated for us is three words in the Bible. One verse. Three words. The complete answer. GOD IS LOVE.

    Now, the work we must all do is to define that love and incorporate it into our lives and Jesus illustrated that to us also along with an entire chapter of the Bible….1 Corinth 13.

    And there you have it. "God is Love and he/she who lives in Love, lives in God and God in him/her" That, and 1 Corinth 13.

    Young man, THAT is God. That is what you can trust in and believe. All the rest is human stuff and nonsense and if you live your life according to Love, it will not matter for you if Hell is real or not. Forget about it, which is pretty much what John said. Trust Love and you trust God, but bear in mind that kind of Love is not romantic love or the kind that gives you a hard on, tho even that can be a way to touch God (as it has been for me). It's the kind of Love that motivates you to buy a loaf of bread and give it to the next homeless person you see, or fearlessly hug a homosexual(that kind of Love knows no gender, "In Christ [Love] there is no male or female"), or vote conscientiously, or allow your intellect to think about things critically and unafraid, or simply immerse yourself in nature. You will not FIND that kind of Love. You can only live it. It is Love that truly sets you free.

    As for you, J Walker, quit already with the rote rhetorical empty platitudes. They are merely bewildering.

  • Soulmentor

    No offense, but you can't possibly suppose that a struggling young person is going to get half way thru that morass of religion-speak. I have a Speech degree and could barely wade thru it myself.

    You, sir, are incoherent and notably unhelpful…in this instance anyway.

  • Soulmentor

    *******I absolutely believe that I can know the truth now and so can anyone else who is born again of the Spirit. You see, I corner the market on absolutely nothing; but I do know the one who corners the market on Truth.*********

    You, Jeanine, are a dangerous person as is anyone who believes they have a corner on Truth, as you do despite your disingenuous protestation.

    Whether you think so or not, you and Bin Laden are philosophical peas in a pod tho you may act it out differently.

  • MJ

    The only thing I'd add for this young man is to be wary of trusting "the people of God," or his "family of faith" if, God forbid, he ever faces anything unsavory like addiction or a real moral dilemma. The past few years have been rough for me, and I've found that God stayed in the picture for me when "friends" fell away and even ostracized my wife and me because I had developed a drinking problem.

    As a matter of fact, the people who have been most kind and loving through it all has been a local Baha'i congregation. They don't exclude anyone, and believe that all the "communicators" from God –Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, and Bahá'u'lláh, are divine manifestations of the will and love of God for ALL humankind.

    The "Christians" I'd always believed I could rely upon fell woefully short when I really needed them.

  • That's awful, MJ. I'm really sorry to hear that.

  • Reminds me a bit of myself when I was a young teen. I converted when I was 14. Now, my family had a non-churchgoing laid-back belief in God, with my father being fairly Christian, but something of a seeker who studied other religions and non-church. (He's a Mormon now). Right around that age, I'd seen some programs on television about end of the world scenarios and started thinking hard about my own mortality. No, I was not a typical teenager. I was the picked-on loner nerd, had the beginnings of what I found out in my life was bipolar disorder, and grew up with a lot of people in my family dying – so I thought about morbid stuff.

    That's when I discovered the televangelists (unfortunately)… between watching the 700 Club and reading passages of the family Bible for the first time, I found my answers, accepted Jesus because I thought that whole eternal life thing was awesome, and timidly joined my local Baptist church.

    I was privilaged that not all the people in that church were "steroypical Baptists." I befriended a sweet doctor who explained to me how he could reconcile belief in Evolution with the Bible, and even though a lot of them did have some of the "fundie" tendencies, these were the kind of folk who'd invite a stranger in need into their home for a meal, even though most of them voted Repubican.

    Which is why, even though I'm more backslidden than you would believe, I can't muster up a lot of the hate for fundies that is so popular these days – I've known too many who were genuinely kind and well-meaning people even if I don't agree with them anymore on some political issues.

    I sometimes worry about the "worth" of my Christianity precisely because I started out with watching the TV preachers and because it was born out of my massive fear of dying (which I still have…. I honestly often fear Hell less than the atheistic idea of non-existance) – which, the the Angry Atheist Brigade at Huffington Post sees as a sign of extreme intellecutal and moral weakness. (That where I found your blog from, I'm "AdorableHero" there – avatar of Link from Legend of Zelda) . It makes me wonder if my underlying faith is worth anything or if they're right (which I do not want them to be, because beleiving in an underlying meaning to the univers is what keeps me bothering to be alive – ironic for the mortality fear, eh)? I try to remind myself that "God comes to people when and how they are ready." I figure I needed something back then (fundamentalism) that I can abandon now.

    Also, a load of my mind was a friend showing me the Tentmakers – a Christian group who argues for Christian Universalism and Hell being temporary. I cannot say that it's true or not, but I like the idea and lean toward it because it makes a "loving father God" make more sense – somene who may have to send you to "time out" for a while, but will reconcile you in the end.

    Sorry for rambling.

  • I sometimes worry about the “worth” of my Christianity precisely because I started out with watching the TV preachers and because it was born out of my massive fear of dying (which I still have…. I honestly often fear Hell less than the atheistic idea of non-existance) – which, the the Angry Atheist Brigade at Huffington Post sees as a sign of extreme intellecutal and moral weakness.


    You mean atheists see fear of dying as both an intellectual and moral weakness? Methink you write a mistruth.

    As for your smear against atheists who comment over at HufPo, you may find it understandable that it is somewhat frustrating to see various pieces on popular woo and atheist bashing prominently featured while Stenger's pieces are buried deeply. Your description does not help to alleviate that very justifiable anger at unfair treatment. But, hey, it's a business and for the greatest sales one tends to cater to the lowest common denominator…

  • I thank God that we can trust Him and His Word for answers. It is a terrifying responsibilty, not cool, when people ask us questions that “we can’t know” and yet we answer them. To the 15 year old, trust God. When you seek Him, you will find him.

  • It's not a "smear" it's telling the truth about what I see and experience in replies on that site. Before you accuse me of "smearing" how about you be me for a little while?

    I have spoken there with "ratoinalists" who really, truly live up the name, but from my perpsective, it seems like they're drowned out by the trolls and the people who are stamping their feet, having a tantrum over the fact that religion in any form even still exists and the world's full of a bunch of dumb-heads who still believe in things like "gods" and "souls." The *majority* *does* come across with that attutide – at least to me. And yes, I have seen people whine things like "all religion is just our fear of death" and "why can't you accept that dead people are dead?" or "how much stupid/evil is wrought in the world just because we fear death?" Desire for afterlife *is* treated as a moral failing by many people on there and you have no business telling me differently. I know what I've seen.

    It's gotten where I just feel like telling people "Hey, I'm a theist and I believe in eternity. It makes me happy and if you don't like it, you can kiss the fattest part of my tuckus."

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Hi, Soulmentor.

    I apologize, but I do not believe I was addressing a struggling young person. I was addressing tildeb, who I believe likely understands more in that reply than you, and I was addressing concerns that otherwise someone else (such as Jeanine or ManimalX) might struggle to address. By the way, a degree in Speech is not particularly pertinent to grasping written technical discourse.

    God bless!

  • Diana A.

    "I was privileged that not all the people in that church were “stereotypical Baptists.” I befriended a sweet doctor who explained to me how he could reconcile belief in Evolution with the Bible, and even though a lot of them did have some of the “fundie” tendencies, these were the kind of folk who’d invite a stranger in need into their home for a meal, even though most of them voted Republican.

    Which is why, even though I’m more backslidden than you would believe, I can’t muster up a lot of the hate for fundies that is so popular these days – I’ve known too many who were genuinely kind and well-meaning people even if I don’t agree with them anymore on some political issues."

    Good for you! Hate is never a good idea, even though it can be a strong temptation when having been hurt by someone or a group of someones. I'm glad your positive experiences with fundamentalists have prevented you from developing the bitterness that I know I have as do some others.

    "Also, a load off my mind was a friend showing me the Tentmakers – a Christian group who argues for Christian Universalism and Hell being temporary. I cannot say that it’s true or not, but I like the idea and lean toward it because it makes a “loving father God” make more sense – someone who may have to send you to “time out” for a while, but will reconcile you in the end."

    Yeah, me too!–though my introduction to Christian Universalism was through "If Grace is True" by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland and then was solidified by The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott.

  • Diana A.

    Yeah. I've had that experience too.

  • Tim

    The way I look at it, Jesus is God. Jesus is decidedly male. So I ascribe masculinity to God since Jesus is the only human aspect ever attributed to God. Belief in a triune deity affords me that. If God is indivisible and the Christ is God with us, I would still identify God with the male identity. If for no other reason, the patriarchal figure of a family best represents what I respect as the most high. That's my take, anyway.

  • It is a smear to label an entire group of people 'angry' as in the "Angry Atheist Brigade" and attach it to non-belief.

    Like with all groups of people, there are all kinds of atheists, some of whom may indeed be 'angry'… especially those who have had to pay a significant social price for rejecting some religious belief set as well as those who have been subject to systematic lying for many years and who harbour deep and resentful feelings for those who used the cover of religion to commit various kinds of pious betrayals. There are many people who feel this way.

    But I am also aware how delicate many people are who think any criticism of stated opinions and beliefs are a personal attack, assuming incorrectly that a heartfelt and cherished belief is part of one's character that deserves on that basis alone to be respected.

    Nuh uh.

    That's not playing fair; beliefs and opinions expressed on web sites are like the intellectual clothing one chooses to wear to a fashion debate. Be prepared and gird thy loins for all kinds of commentary and challenges and criticisms about what you have introduced into the event. It's not personal, although it can sure feel that way, and its not about you, although you get to bear the brunt of holding what others consider a really bad idea. Receiving sustained and detailed criticism for a belief set others argue is unjustified is not a character trait of those who do so, nor is their motivation necessarily the result of an emotional state of anger. Linking anger to atheists who challenge religious assertions and assumptions is an unfair one-sided incorrect generalized characterization and when it is used as you have used it, it is intended to be a smear.

    I'm just calling you on it.

  • Kara

    "If Grace is True" was also my introduction to Christian Universalism, and I highly recommend it. (I haven't read The Inescapable Love of God, but I'll have to check it out.) Gulley and Mulholland make a persuasive argument, and it's not an overly-academic read. Anyone who's new to the concept of universal redemption should definitely check it out.

  • Ace

    "Hell is a place prepared for the devil and those loyal to him. The thought of this comforts me; that people like Hitler will ulitmately be dealt with."

    That's a rather bloody-minded thought, if you ask me.

    What if Hitler accepted Christ on his death-bed? Would you still feel the need for retribution, or would you celebrate the redemption of a very lost, twisted soul?

    I would re-read the parable of the workers in the vinyard if I were you.

    Hell, I believe, is simply the utter and complete absence of the Holy Spirit, "the outer darkness" – and I think that state exists for many, but I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

  • Jeanine

    If Hitler repented; Praise God, he is a new creation altogether! Born of the Spirit of God, washed clean and made new. Glory to God for His mercy, the same mercy He showed me. I deserved nothing and he gave me the free gift of salvation and a chance to know the living God.

    I am so grateful to be forgiven and shown this great love.

    But if Hitler was unrepentant; shaking his fist at the Lord and the Jews; well then, that is another story. Knowing that there will be an end to all sin, especially my own, is a great comfort to me.

  • Ace

    Well, nice backpeddaling there, anyway…

  • I was using a bit of hyperbole, yes, but I was speaking of a particular group on Huff, not *all atheists* there. I've had some very nice conversations with some, it's just that…. well, other theists here who go to Huff know what I'm talking about. See Diana's response.

    I know you think you're all wonderfully righteous for "calling me out" but, honestly, you haven't been me, nor dealt with the kind of foolisheness I've dealt with over there. It's funny how Progressive Christians are expected by default to call out the Pat Robertsons of the world but so very few atheists seem wiling to even admit that some of their fellow atheists can be rude and horrible.

    Yes, there are going to be articles of "woo" there. Huffington Post is not officiall an Atheist Newspaper or site. They exist. If it's too "accomdationist" for you, go to those sites instead. As for me, even though I enjoy the articles by people like Mr. Shore and Dr. Giberson and even Rev. Chang (I'm not gay, I just find his perspective interesting), I've decided it's probably best that I don't go there anymore because of the commentary climate.

    I posted here because I thought Mr. Shore and the young man he spoke of could use another story. I bore my soul here and you cane to piss all over it because of one minor detail – because I *dared* say that *some* of "your people" at Huffpost were angry snots who treated me badly for being different from them.

    Please never speak to me again. If you see my name on this or any other blog or forum, please consider me as "dead" to you and never speak to me again.

  • I was just over on HuffPo, because I noticed they'd put my last story there back up on their religion page. ( I was scanning the comments to it left there. This one of course caught my eye:

    Quote: "Jesus…presents…a God who loves as God alone can: absolutely, unconditionally, unmitigatedly, freely. " God alone? Sounds exactly like my Golden Retriever who, may I just add, does not require me to fork over 10% of my income nor does he try to rape my children.

  • If my replies yesterday were a bit angry, it's because I was. I had been on one of Dr. Giberson's topics hashing it out with some stranger who wanted to "convert" me and whined, much like this guy seems to be doing, that I was being "close-minded" toward atheists and criticisms of faith when I was pointing out that he was being condescending to me and others. In response to my saying that "everyone's close-minded to something" he proclaimed that, of course it was okay for *him* to be close-minded toward "uncrtical thinking."

    I tried to point out the atheists on Huff that I've spoken two who *didn't* act holier-than-thou to me, including naming the username of a lovely lady I've talked with on frequent basis, justifyibly angry because of her Fundamentalist background, who has said many times that she views religion and especially Christianity as "poison" and despite all that, has done what most of the peanut gallery on the site seem to be unable to do – addressed me with respect and talked to me as an intellectual and moral equal.

    I do want to make it perfectly clear that when I talk of the "Angry Atheist Brigade" I do not speak of all atheists (nor even all Atheists on HuffPo), but some of the frequent commenators – which probably represent the "vocal minority" of atheism as a whole.

    (It's just that I feel like the lunatics are running the asylum sometimes).

  • Mine, too, actually.

  • Here's the thing, I was raised in a faith. I was told about Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit. But I didn't believe until I was older. My daughter unquestionably believes in God. But she has questions. Who is right, who is wrong, that sort of thing. I teach her the substance of what I believe, but the decision to accept it as truth is hers and hers alone.

    A coerced belief is no belief at all. I cannot force my child to love Christ any more than I can force her to love me. She loves me because I reach for her in love; I believe she will eventually come to love Christ for the same reason. But she needs to come to that relationship with Him on her own terms, not on mine.

    My faith is big enough to believe that God provides many roads to reach Him. The God I believe in would never condemn a child seeking to know His truth simply because they had not had a conversion event prior to death.

    This is what I believe and this is how I will raise my children. How you raise yours is entirely up to you, of course.

  • "Dear God: Please make everyone reading this chain of comments agree with my opinion. Love and kisses, Jeanine." is EXACTLY how that read.

    "You won't agree with me so I'm going to pray for you in an entirely condescending tone. Sure, THAT will make me see the error of my ways, just as my sarcasm here will surely make you see yours.


  • I’ll have to keep it in mind (as well as Mr. Shore’s books) when I can afford to buy books again.

    The Tentmakers’ website I’ve been reading through has all kind of interesting stuff about the original language in regards to eternity and judgement, “aion” and all that. It’s really not something I can “go with” just because it “feels good” – I have to know that there’s sound reasoning for it and evidence that it was the NT as originally written. Still a load off my mind that it’s a possibility out there – makes me less worried about trying to “save” souls that obviously don’t *want* to be “saved.” Thinking “Oh, they’ll be anyway” is nice.

  • If you want to be snarky, you could always ask if the guy even has a dog or knows anything about dogs.

    A portion of the income does go to the pet in order to feed it, oh, and help you if the animal gets sick and needs a vet!

    Growing up, my family had a cocker spaniel that loved raping my leg.

  • Diana A.

    “It’s really not something I can “go with” just because it ‘feels good’ – I have to know that there’s sound reasoning for it and evidence that it was the NT as originally written. ”

    I totally understand this! “If Grace is True” referenced “The Inescapable Love of God,” which is how I ended up reading that book. “The Inescapable Love of God” is really solid (in my opinion.) It uses both scripture and logic to make its point. It’s a mite expensive ( but well worth the price when you can afford it.

  • Vicki

    Sometimes you are the only intelligent Christian to ever exist. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your posts. They give me hope.

  • Don Whitt

    I have a wonderful relationship with my old father (86) and stepmother (85) who are closest to this issue. And they are steadfast in their religion, spirituality and commitment to being open-minded. I love them so much. We all agree with Jean-Paul Sartre that "hell is other people".

    Witness Newt Gingrich who told all his compatriots to stop socializing with the "enemy" 15 or so years ago and put Washington DC into the toilet it is in now. Truly, Newt wants hell to be here and now.

    We should all focus on how we can promote love and selflessness today, not worry about what happens once we die. To worry about hell now is like investing in Florida real estate. Which obviously has proved to be a living hell. John, your response is exactly what I'd wish for my own son who has skipped merrily across these issues, so far.Thank you again and again.

  • asinner

    JS: "You’ve got all the time in the world to answer these questions."

    So are you God or do you have a crystal ball? You don't know how long this person has to figure these things out. In addition to the possibility of early death, Christ could come back at any time. Scripture says: But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (Mark 13:32_

    JS:"Anyone who spends too much time worrying about the afterlife isn’t spending enough time worrying about this life."

    Scripture says: A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time. (Ecclesiastes 7:4)

    JS: I have no idea if hell is real.

    In the legitimate translations, meaning translated by those concerned with the truth, hell is mentioned from 12 to 54 times. While hell is not a torture chamber, it is total separation from God. In this life, it's sin that separates us from God and has the potential to destroy us.

    JS: What I do know is that I want to be good. I want to be good, helpful, honorable, charitable, generous, compassionate, loving, kind, forgiving, thoughtful, diligent, patient, cheerful, hopeful, and the best husband any woman ever had.

    Scripture says: And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. (Luke 18:19) God's standard is perfection and none of us is perfect. Therefore, None of us deserves to enter heaven because none of us does these things without fail, in other words, sin. We don't always love God and we don't always love our neighbors. The fact is, we break every one of the ten commandments every day. This is why we need a Savior. We can NOT earn our way into heaven.

    JS: Don’t worry about hell. Worry about your life. Worry about doing your best to be someone who doesn’t have to worry about whether or not hell is real.

    Scripture says: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) The ONLY way to heaven is to accept Christ.

    I'm not trying to scare you but am simply making you aware of the truth. You must understand though, Satan is the great deceiver and uses many ways, and people, to get to you. Scripture makes this clear and warns us to be careful.

    Matthew 24:24–For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible.

    Matthew 7:15 —Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

    I'll be praying for you.

  • Your truth isn't mine, friend. (And save yourself the trouble of praying for me. Thanks anyway.)

  • Diana A.

    1) Either God is trustworthy or he isn't. If God is not trustworthy, we are all screwed. If God is trustworthy than we are all saved.

    2) What kind of God attempts to blackmail his children into professing love for him?

  • Diana A.

    Then/than, whatever.

    Proofreading–it's a good thing!

  • Matthew Tweedell


    Actually, all the time in the world is now. He does have it.

    And the official "time of death" can be well after the soul is perished; or it can be but the beginning!

    And no, Christ couldn't come back at any time: He must come back at the time the Father has appointed. Just because we don't know when that is doesn't make it a random event. (It is not possible for Him to come other than when he comes; that’s just in your head—kind of like the notion of time that you seem to have.) And just because we don't know when He will doesn't mean we can't know anything about when He won't. For though no one has seen the Father, all who have seen the Son have seen the Father also. We who know the Son, in that Way, know the Father too. "'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2:16)

    And about Luke 18:19, you just don't get it, do you?

    I doubt you can see past your own nose on John 14:6 either, in order to "stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." (John 7:24)

    "…we break every one of the ten commandments every day."

    Speak for yourself.

    @Diana A.

    I'm getting a little troubled by your continued implication that all will be saved. Not only is it unorthodox, it goes against scripture, and not only is it unscriptural, it isn't rationally meaningful or else is contrary to evident reality.

  • I'm constantly troubled by the implication that any of us needs saving. It implies that there is some rule structure that not even your God can change. He just has to play by these larger than God rules and demand either that humans sacrifice lambs or offer his "only begotten son" as that sacrifice. If there's nothing God can't do, why can't he save all of us whether we play by his rules or not?

  • Diana A.

    I believe all will be saved. I don't believe God puts a time limit on his love and I don't believe that humanity can out-wait God.

    I dare you to read Thomas Talbott's "The Inescapable Love of God." It might open your eyes to the scriptural basis for Christian Universalism. Or, have you already read that book? If you have, I'd be interested in hearing your arguments against his conclusions.

  • Haha. This reminded me of the new article in Vanity Fair in which Christopher Hitchens addresses all of the Christians praying for him now that he has cancer of the throat. It's a great read.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Why would he want to do that?

    If you don't feel the need to be saved anyway (though you might in the end be surprised that you are), why would you care?

    Anyway, God elects the saved (though he doesn't have to), so how are any rules greater than His?

    God does not desire, nor is He compelled to accept, sacrifice.

    If anything it would seem it’s the Universalist position that presumes to bind God by any certain rules in this regard.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    No, I hadn't read it. I've looked into it now that you recommended it, and I get the sense that it comes down to a different understanding of concepts such as of spirit, soul, and self. I prefer to understand things through the simplest model that can adequately explain them. Mr. Thomas Talbott is wrong to dismiss my understanding as crippled by fear (one of many instances in which he seems to substitute true understanding with hasty convenient conclusions), though I'll admit it may be simplistic (which I believe is better, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit). Generally speaking, I don't fear: what checks my recklessness is but reason, with love. I know, fear is the beginning of understanding; if ever I feel any fear, I push through it to understanding. The Bible teaches us to fear the Lord but also not to worry but to trust in the Lord's providence. I think a lot of people confuse these and have trouble reconciling the two. Anyway, I seek, and promote, not fear but love (though the two sort of come as a package deal).

    I understand full well the danger of a culture of irrational fears (or any religion of intimidation), but I also see the dangers of (Protestant) Universalism (especially unchecked by a healthy degree of agnostic skepticism). So I defer to the orthodox tradition of the Church and hold to a liberal understanding of what it means to believe "in Christ". About life, not every is eternal; about hell, God is the Everlasting, and nothing is as He (but note what I said about time in the comment above).

    Now, I think I was wrong to criticize your position in that way, Diana. I apologize.

    Although, as I understand it, I cannot deny the second death, I tell you this: there is no third. Ultimately, all things will be reconciled to God, but we often fail to understand what things really are.

    Talbot's arguments seem primarily directed against an understanding that is not mine; how then am I to counter them?

    I am glad though for voices like his out there to challenge misunderstandings leaning in the other, more pessimistic direction.

    However, what he writes about seems more than a bit disconnected from reality. Such is as the abstract wisdom of the world, and in other ways, his appeal to worldly wisdom seems even clearer. Still other things seem downright superstitious, though it may be the result of my own ignorance.

    Here's how I think the argument should be rendered:

    On the Last Day, all the dead will be resurrected, unto eternal life or eternal punishment. Christ is the resurrection. Therefore, all who will be in the resurrection (which is all who are dead) will be in Christ. Such is as the Holy Fire or the Pearly Gates. What then shall I say? Now is not that "time".

  • Diana A.

    Hi Matthew!

    To tell you the truth, I sometimes have trouble understanding your viewpoints. Occasionally, I'll understand something you have said well enough to be able to respond to it–and then, I do. Much of the time, though, I find your viewpoint to be a wee bit above my head.

    That said, I don't think you owe me an apology for criticizing my position. You have a right to your opinion just as I have a right to mine. Mine is based in my own studies (including but not limited to what Thomas Talbott has written) and yours is based on your studies. If you believe I am in error, you have the right to say so, just as I have the right to disagree. So, no apology necessary.

  • I am here to affirm that hell is real because I know that demons are real. I am not here to simply quote scriptures but to testify that the Bible is real about hell. So if there is hell there must also be heaven. This means we have a choice to make. I hope you would take the time to read this short story / testimony, YOUR CHOICE YOUR DESTINY and you’ll see what I am saying.


    Then read a related link:

    Would you please leave a comment so I know what you think?



  • Silas

    Marcus, this is a good article! I’m writing a book about a war between humans and demons which takes place in early castle days and I started doing research on the prophets of heaven and hell which had a major religious impact on me and still does. I was talking to a major athiest (however you spell it) today and he said that theres no god, no satan and no after life which made me sad cause if thats true then I feel like I have no one to look up to and lately I haven’t really decided what I believe.

    please email me back if you can!

  • bdfgdafg

    Ok I agree with John Whom I calle dMarcus by mistake (Sorry John)

    But yeah, just because you worry about this ;ife doesn’t mean their a fool! I mean like, I know thats what the “Bible” says but ya know there’s more than “ONE” bible! So any of these bibles could be wrong and God doesn’t give us time limits about figuring stuff out

  • bdfgdafg

    Oh sorry John I called you marcus, 🙁

  • Chas

    I have read this kid’a question and the answer he was given in very impartial non judgmental fashion, this being said I now must tell this kid the truth… If you are still reading this posting ( and I pray u are) understand me really clearly there is only one true religion and one true God and one way to him. Don’t believe me about this though. So how do I make such a bold statement?? Cuz Jesus said so that’s why. I believe whatever Jesus said and I’m well off to do that because he was the greatest man who ever walked the earth, that being of course because he was God in the flesh. To say you are a Christian and you love and respect Jesus then say that hell and other things Jesus told us is “maybe right” is really really incorrect. Your contradicting your own self when you say you follow Jesus but then call him a liar when it comes to hell and that there’s only one way to God… Your either gonna believe everything Jesus said or nothing he said cuz there’s no way to pick and choose what u like and don’t like of his teachings.

    To sum this up, young man there’s definitely one correct God to follow and that’s the God of the Bible. The repercussions of not accepting him are very dangerous and will decide the rest of your life. Do the research theres soooo much evidence and proof for Christianity and open your Bible ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and watch your life change! Don’t take my word for it though… Listen to Jesus, he loves u so much and he’s waiting for u! Email me if you have any more questions or want help to guide u through all this bro.

    God bless u all,